A Day at Dachau

Posted on January 28th, 2015 by

Getting out of bed in the morning is generally hard, but it’s especially hard when you know you’re going to be visiting a concentration camp. Around 9:30 this morning, a very quiet group of Gusties made the trip to Dachau Concentration Camp, about ten miles northwest of Munich.

In 1933, Heinrich Himmler, Reichsf├╝hrer of the Schutzstaffel or SS, announced that a concentration camp would be built outside the town of Dachau that would essentially be a forced labor camp for political opponents of the state. Later in the year, prisoners were forced to rebuild numerous buildings, barbwire fences and watchtowers in order to enlarge the capacity to 2,700 prisoners, including Jews, ordinary German and Austrian criminals, Jehovah’s Witnesses, homosexuals, Soviet prisoners of war and emigrants. In total, Dachau recorded the intake of 206,206 prisoners and 31,951 deaths but it is suspected that there were in fact over 41,500 deaths.

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Badge system to classify prisoners.

 

Dachau was the first concentration camp and served as a model for the other large concentration camps but also the 123 sub camps and smaller satellite camps. By the end of the war, Dachau Concentration Camp covered an area of over 1.5 square kilometers. Prisoners were forced to work in terrible conditions, starved, tortured, beaten and sometimes subject to medical experiments.

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Liberation of Dachau Concentration Camp

 

The camp was liberated on April 29th, 1945 by American soldiers. The first memorial was built by former prisoners in 1965, later rebuilt in 2003. The memorial walks visitors through a museum and the life of a prisoner. Visitors can enter remakes of the barracks during different eras, walk through the crematorium and visit chapels and memorials such as the Catholic Mortal Agony of Christ Chapel, Jewish Memorial, Protestant Church of Reconciliation, Carmelite Holy Blood Convent and Russian Orthodox Chapel.

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Inside the Jewish Memorial

 

During our entire visit, there was a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes. There was an eerie feeling while walking down the main camp road, knowing that so many others shuffled down that road, not by choice. While it was painful to visit, I know that my pain was minute in comparison to the pain of all those who stepped foot into Dachau or any of the other concentration camps. The general consensus between the group was that it is important to remember and learn about these events in order to keep them from happening again and to remember those who lost their lives at Dachau.

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“Never Again” Memorial

 

I beg you
Do something
Learn a dance step
Something to justify your existence
Something that gives you the right
To be dressed in your skin in your body hair
Learn to walk and to laugh
Because it would be too senseless
After all
For so many to have died
While you live
Doing nothing with your life.

– Charlotte Delbo, Holocaust survivor

 


One Comment

  1. Jack Anderson says:

    Well said Kirsten.